Monday, July 29, 2013

Shades of Beige

From Pumpkin to Carrington Beige


Every morning in kindergarten the children get a few minutes of choice time to settle in and adjust to the transition. Every morning for the entire year there was a group of girls and sometimes a couple boys, who chose to draw. Rainbows. Rainbows every day. They got really good at drawing rainbows.

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Roy G. Biv  as we learned in school. Marin County is kind of a rainbow place. You have to go through the Rainbow Tunnel to get here from San Francisco.  Our house has become kind of a rainbow house, accent on yellow. We have had a veritable bouquet of yellow shades, but we also have a red wall, a burgundy wall, an olive bedroom, a sage bedroom and until last week, an orange hall.

Painting walls satisfies my compulsive need for change. I like change. I crave stability. It's the oddest combination.  Almost thirty years in the same house, I'm so comforted by the familiar. You know your house like you know the face of a dear friend. You remember the way light comes in at certain times of year. The creak of doors, the squeak of a step. The smell of the attic when you go upstairs on a hot day.

Sameness gets boring. It always has. As much as I love my house, I’m awfully tired of driving down the same street to get here. I wish I could move the house somewhere else. The last year has been a time of thinking about the future and where we may go in a couple years. Part of the process is slowly preparing the house for its new family. Part of the preparation is making orange walls disappear.

I had such bad paint issues with my ex-husband. We clashed mightily over shades of white. Of course color, or lack thereof, was just a metaphor for other ways we failed. Swedish and Norwegian, Robert liked stark, cold colors. Like  Navajo White. An artist, I love color. I like to take risks.

Robert was innately opposed to change. His first response to anything different was always negative. He couldn't help it. A man of rituals, he’d do something new, after initially resisting the idea. Then he'd like it and say we should make it part of the routine. Why did everything need to be a routine? Starved for distraction and stimulation, I felt smothered and trapped. We started out full of hope and promise, but didn't wear well together.

When I remarried I was determined not to have paint problems. I couldn't handle it. Painting is a way for me to get a hit of change almost immediately. When I get the urge to paint a wall or a room there's no stopping me. It is manic.

The best example of my painting compulsion is a January day in 1982. I was seven months pregnant with Lucy and the nesting instinct was overpowering. I decided I needed to paint the nursery immediately. Yellow, of course. Forget the fact that we were experiencing a storm with such severe rain and wind that the Golden Gate Bridge was shut down. Somewhere in the process our power went out and I sent Lucy's Dad to 7-11 to buy another paintbrush. I then proceeded to paint the room by candlelight. Looking back, I can see that this was extreme behavior, but I don't really think I've changed that much.

One October afternoon a few years ago I decided the downstairs hall needed painting. I called Eric at work and asked him what color it should be. He told me to paint it orange. Done. By evening we had a pumpkin shade of orange in the hall. There has been some research done on the psychological effect of certain paint colors. Supposedly you sleep the longest in blue rooms. We painted our bedroom in San Francisco blue. I can't remember whether we slept well or much else from 1979. 


In the blue SF bedroom on March 10, 1979
Some of our favorite colors came from homes I've seen on Broker Tour. I've even been known to go back to a house for sale and nose around the garage looking for cans of paint. It's best to see the paint in action before taking the plunge, but I've also closed my eyes and leapt plenty of times. Paint has gotten very expensive, but mistakes are correctable.

We learned a very hard lesson with exterior paint. About fifteen years ago we needed to paint and my ex and I agreed on a Cape Cod style gray. That was the end of agreeing. The shade of gray became a seemingly insurmountable difficulty. My ex did not like any of the colors I suggested.

The painter was all set to go and he dutifully painted samples on the side of the house. Robert would come home from work, look at the color and decide he didn't like it. The same thing happened the following day. Days turned into more days.  Now who's crazy? In the second week Robert took matters into his own hands. He went to the paint store in Corte Madera and supervised the creation of a color. A drop of this. Two drops of that. We ended up with a fine shade of gray that I could not differentiate from the other samples, but whatever. It was progress.

The paint job required massive amounts of prep and scaffolding to get to the second story. It cost twelve thousand dollars, but when it was finished we were happy. For a while. In a couple years we noticed something strange. The paint was fading. Maybe not exactly fading. It was changing color. Wherever it was exposed to the sun it lost the gray hue. In a couple more years we had a two-tone house. The upper level was Robin's egg blue. After all that fuss it was only gray on the porch. The rest of it was a paint color nobody would have chosen.

Frustrated, disappointed, we couldn't figure it out. It was a reputable painter and quality paint. We could get the paint replaced, but nobody would compensate us for the labor. So we lived with it. Year after year. Robert and I divorced and then we each married again, but the house still looked terrible. It bothered me every time I looked at it or thought about it.

Recently Eric and I bit the bullet and repainted the house. Lana and Rich were planning to get married and we wanted to throw a celebration for them in our garden. There's nothing like a wedding reception to light the afterburners on home maintenance and repairs.

During the bid process I learned something very interesting about exterior paint. In order for the color to last you must choose stock colors. If you want a custom color you can only work with certain pigments. A drop of this and two drops of that is not sustainable. It never was. That was an expensive lesson for all concerned. Two drops of enthusiasm mixed with a drop of reticence don't blend to become something lasting and beautiful.

Another twelve thousand dollars were on the line and I couldn't afford to make a mistake. I had to choose paint that I could see on somebody's house. I drove around the neighborhood looking for the perfect color and finally found it a few blocks away on Sycamore Avenue. I sent a letter to the owners complimenting their choice and begged for the color name. I got an email from the owner explaining that it was Beechwood Gray.

I showed the color to Eric and he deliberated for quite some time. At least thirty seconds. Then he agreed it WAS perfect. McCarthy painting did a wonderful job, although we had a couple days of drizzle. One day it began to rain mid-morning. I emailed from school asking if they could paint the living room. Sure, but they needed a color. I'd seen a home for sale on Sunnyside with very pretty, soft beige in the living room. I rushed over there during the open house with the paint fan. The agent helped me match the color. Carrington Beige.

Out with the peachy pink we'd had for so long. In with a peaceful, neutral color. So peaceful and neutral that now orange has been killed and the hall is beige as well. It's hard to say how this is trending. The Benjamin Moore website proclaims “Lemon Sorbet” the color of the year. “This beautiful yellow hue harmonizes with other trending pastels in the mint, coral, pink, blue and vanilla families. Uplifting without being overpowering, Lemon Sorbet is the ideal home paint color to complement any d├ęcor”.

Uplifting without being overpowering? It sounds like something to drink. I’m not sure where folks are using mint and coral pastels. Maybe Miami Beach. All the properties I’ve been seeing seem to be Carrington Beige. Remember, you heard it here first. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Love Puppy


Ruby looking ever so innocent. We know better.




It's been one week and one day since we brought Ruby home to live with us. Life as we knew it is over. It's better. We're having such fun with her. So cute we can hardly stand it, yet a complete handful. When she's awake I wish she would fall asleep and when she's asleep I want to wake her up. Every time I look at Ruby I want to take a picture.

Gone are the mornings of lounging in bed, reading the paper and drinking coffee. Now we open our eyes and race to the crate to take Ruby out to do her business. Then she's absolutely starving and frantic for company. She now sleeps all night without a peep, but at 6 am there is hell to pay.

Mornings are insanity with this creature. Ruby bites with her sharp, needle teeth. She scratches and claws and hurls her five-pound body in circles. She does barrel rolls. Then comes the collapse. Ruby goes from awake to snoring faster than my husband. Having her sleep on your lap, making soft, snorty noises is bliss.

When we drove half way across California in hundred-degree weather we thought we'd be picking up a dog. What we got was a pig. Or, a cross between a pig and a rabbit. Sometimes she seems like a kitten with bat ears. Very rarely does this creature resemble a dog. It's hilarious. It’s hard to convey how tiny Ruby is. Eric says she looks like a large burrito with legs. She’s smaller than his shoe. 

Since French Bulldogs are so popular we couldn't buy one locally until 2014, so we looked farther afield. You can have them shipped from anywhere in the country for a price. I didn't want to meet our new dog at the airport. I wanted to see where she came from. Meet the family.

Modern Moms sometimes take a little getaway before their baby is born. It's called a "babymoon". We took a "puppymoon". We turned the pre-adoption trip into a mini vacation. The drive down the central California coast was stunning. Lunch in Arroyo Grande was lovely. We stopped in charming Solvang for wine tasting. Think Pennsylvania Dutch country in California.

Then it was off to Montecito. The beach was three blocks from our hotel. The air was warm and humid and summery. The ocean was delightful. Memories still linger from the wonderful lunch Eric and I had at San Ysidro Ranch. Such a special place. I need to go back to Santa Barbara again soon.




Lunch at San Ysidro




Southward to Los Angeles and a visit with Allie. More beach time and a fun dinner at Cecconi's, the restaurant for which she does social media. It's very hip and trendy. They only let us in because we were with Allie and Keilan. I couldn't help but notice how many women with long, black hair were in attendance. It's partly attributed to the Middle Eastern residents, but I think it's more the Kardashian influence. In Marin everyone is still trying to be blonde.

Sunday we brunched in Santa Monica, hit the Getty Center and had an afternoon drink and snack at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel. We sat in the garden, which reeked of money, new and old. Celebrity sighting was a little slow. There was only one "Housewife" to be seen. I still don't understand how a housewife can be famous.

My favorite part of the LA weekend was Sunday evening when Eric made a delicious dinner for Allie and some buds at her apartment. All Mill Valley friends, living in Los Angeles now. They have history together and are making more memories while they forge
their futures. So many laughs with them.

Monday morning we had an early breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien in Beverly Hills and then headed for the hills. The breeder is located at the base of the Sequoia National Forest, in Springville. Beautiful,but in the middle of nowhere. Ruby, the only piebald, was the first of the eight pups to leave home. The ride home in the car was exciting for all of us. None of us were sure what to expect. The temperature outside reached 105 at some points.

Eric and I were starving so we stopped at a Foster's Freeze where we were the only customers. We obviously couldn't leave Ruby in the car so Eric just walked in with her and nobody said anything. It was us with a dog or nobody at all. We got to Mill Valley about six pm, just exhausted.

The next couple days of pupternity leave were a blur, with getting up at night and adjusting to new routines. There's a reason 55 year old women can't have babies. It's called menopause. There's also a stamina issue. Caring for newborns is a young woman's game.

It’s been a busy time of bonding, pooping and peeing. We thought housebreaking was going to be so easy. Then Ruby started actually eating and drinking. In my mind the word "puppy" is now pronounced "poo-pee".  We saw the vet last night for the once over and he suggested more crate time. We also spend a lot of time outside. So far, it's working well.

I'm not afraid of the care-taking responsibility. I'm all about care-taking. I've lived with and cared for a boyfriend, child or husband since I was seventeen years old. I'm organized and can multi-task, plan and strategize. I know how to take advantage of nap time. Not care-taking is more of an issue for me. Taking care of myself has been a hard learned skill and I'm still not very good at it. 


I've been thinking about why I have blocked dogs since Hanna died six years ago. I’ve concluded that it has to do with my heart. Being a wife, being a mother, being a person, can really hurt your feelings. Going through a divorce is a loss. Shared memories are gone, possibilities for the future are aborted. It takes time to rebuild, reboot and recover. If your parenting is good you lose your children many times along the way. You raise them to leave you. How masochistic is that?


When your dog dies it’s unadulterated pain and grief. You mourn their company and unconditional love. You miss their smell. I was pregnant with Lucy when Albert, the Doberman, died of congestive heart failure. I cried every day for a month. I used to sniff his sweater. You’re setting yourself up for certain loss. Having a new puppy in the house evokes wisps of Hanna's ghost for me and Ruby’s favorite place to drink water is from Toby’s huge bowl. This ridiculous little critter has big paws to fill. Huge. Oh my. Here we go again…